Category Archives: Seasons

Road Trip Needed

Florida, Austin, Asheville, Athens G-A, Little Rock, wherever. I feel a need to hit the road and find an outside environment that doesn’t look like Hoth. This landscape is preferable:

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We must road trip this summer – Madison, MPLS-STP, even a couple quick jaunts up to CHGO would count – to fill two purposes: To scratch this nagging travel itch I seem to have going on, and to get Lilly to visit a few schools. Schools as in, colleges and universities. Yes, we’ve arrived at that point. I can’t believe it either, but some very good friends of ours (and they’re our age) have one offspring finishing college and another offspring who, with his partner, just made them grandparents, so clearly that sands through the hourglass thing applies universally. Lesson here is positively BuellerianLife moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. He’s right.

Speaking of stopping and looking around, here’s something I witnessed this past Monday as I was walking the two blocks from where I park my car to my office.

[Sidebar: I enjoy this walk very much, even on the coldest/hottest of days; it’s a buffer between worlds. For those two blocks, I’m preparing to enter a different headspace, and even though it’s just two average residential/campus blocks, it’s still outside, still the natural world. There are lots of trees and squirrels and birds on this block – late last spring, a pair of house finches sang me to work most mornings. There they were, pretty much every day without fail, perched in the same tree, just chirping away. I’m sure they annoyed the living shit out of anyone on the block trying to sleep in, but I was delighted.]

Anyway. I was walking those two blocks to my office. It was cold, but not unreasonably so. It had snowed quite a bit over the weekend, but the sun was out and the sky was cloudless. I lifted my head to take in as much as I could before crossing the street and heading into my office, and when I did, I noticed… bits of snow? Bark? Leaves? Ash? Gray things, with a touch of red, floating down and resting on top of the new snow… down feathers, I suddenly realized, and there were lots of them.

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I looked up. A mid-sized hawk was on the branch just above, poor dead male cardinal in its talons. He/she regarded me, pulled out one last, long, bright red feather, and then decided to eat is meal in peace elsewhere. I probably stood there for 10 seconds before I stooped down, took that last feather, and walked the rest of the block to work.

I love birds. Hawks fascinate me. Cardinals are so gorgeous, especially against new snow – but the snow that throws them into such brilliant, beautiful relief is also what makes them more visible to hawks and other predators. That cardinal’s luck had run out… because the hawk was hungry. I’ve watched (hawk-like) the hawk that lives in our neighborhood and have marveled at its patience. I don’t enjoy seeing it rip a smaller bird apart, but I reckon it’s entitled to enjoy its food after waiting so long, strategizing the entire time.

Hmmmm.

Idle Hands Make Pie

As February lurches on – it doesn’t march, it lurches – the days lengthen and the desire to DO SOMETHING, ANYTHING increases. I start trolling the web looking for stuff to do, not unlike a bored toddler, fresh Sharpie in hand, eyeing a blank wall. Building, baking, seed-starting, whatever, but it has to be EXACTLY what I want to be doing and it CANNOT be drudgery and NO ONE can make any suggestions. So this weekend I baked a key lime pie the way Deb at Smitten Kitchen does it because a) I’d been craving limes and b) it’s a sentimental favorite (more on that in a sec).

Production was colorful – the butter (Kerrygold) was a cheerful, robust yellow as it melted, the lime zest an otherworldly green. The entire house reeked of citrus.

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Making the crust and the filling were absurdly easy, though juicing the limes was a bit hard on my hands (we no longer have a citrus juicer, alas). And while I’m always nervous that pies of this type will never set properly and leave me with a pie plate full of graham cracker and goo – I speak from experience – such was not the case. Most of the total time involves the cooling of the pie (twice – once for the filling, another for the whipped cream on top). Here’s an arty shot, before the whipped cream was applied:

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Why key lime pie, you might ask? Great question. When I was in Florida, growing up, limes were the weird citrus tree. I loved every other citrus fruit, but limes were weird and how could you even tell they were ripe and they seemed to spend more time in beverages than anywhere else, which was suspicious. Of course, we eventually left Florida for Minnesota and, over time, I basically forgot all about limes as anything other than something to put in a gin and tonic or to accompany Mexican food. When we started heading to Florida every winter in the early 2000s, we would also visit my Oma (RIP) for a day and basically steep in fresh-squeezed citrus juice. She didn’t have lime trees, but she juiced the, um, juice out of each and every orange and tangerine on her property. Her neighbors thought she was insane, but she knew better – they’re buying their orange juice at the store, she scoffed. I liked the way she thought. Juicing oranges and tangerines with her, in her kitchen in Titusville, reignited my love for citrus, limes included. We now have a custom of buying the surprisingly-good key lime pie from Publix every time we’re on vacation, but this year, I couldn’t wait. And while Publix makes a decent KLP… well, so do I, as it turns out.

Today’s LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

Transforming a junk drawer

Creating a buyer persona

Podcast editing tips

Wall Street wants to know where the Twitter users are

Chipotle: The Definitive Oral History

Eddie Huang Against the World

Radio peeps moving to podcasting?

My friend Ken Stringfellow’s blog

All about a button museum in CHGO

Writing For 15 Minutes

I have 15 minutes to get a post written, media uploaded, etc. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

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I have somehow managed to not kill our indoor plants. The key to successfully keeping succulents alive is to not water them all the damn time. As my friend Mathis says, those of us who are used to growing food plants outside tend to overwater succulents, because… well… HOW CAN THEY NOT NEED WATER EVERY DAY? I’ve watchfully ignored this plant and all of its friends and they seem to be thriving. Success. I guess the lessons here are that a) I should listen to the experts because I do not know everything and b) I do not need to helicopter parent my plants.

That said, I’m looking forward to getting back outside. Footage review from stuff we shot last summer has been tortuous – chickens, garden foliage, flowers in glorious HD – and the snow encrusting our driveway and every other outdoor surface seems very last season, all of a sudden.

LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

The next internet is TV

Synonyms for “hope” (my favorite is “pipe dream”)

Something about media vertical collectives

Amanda Hesser’s Medium page

For those who hate themselves for loving Kinfolk: The Kinspiracy

Farm to table alive and well in Arizona

Free vintage clip art and photos

Reveal – great investigative reporting here

Women and commercial space travel

Greil Marcus’ “Days Between Stations” archive… finally

Welcome

Hi, February. I baked you a cake.

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Despite my efforts, February, it appears Punxatawney Phil saw his shadow today, so this winter isn’t over yet (also confirmed by a look out the window here). However, February 2 is also that magickal day, Imbolc, where we’re about halfway between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. The days are noticeably longer, especially at the end of the day, and a month from now, our day will be about an hour and  a half longer on both ends than it is now. THAT is exciting. Oh! And! Tomorrow night’s full moon should be spectacular if the skies clear. I love marking time by watching the sky. It’s a way for me to stay connected to the natural world, which is a lot harder for me to do now than it was 10 years ago, when I was home with the kids and the skies ruled our days; I now spend way more time in an office than I do outside, unfortunately. Thankful for windows.

Related: Today is a particularly interesting day for me at work. The meetings themselves pack a wallop just by their sheer number (and on a Monday!), but one of those meetings involves a project I’d love to work on and I hope it goes well.

This is Red Five. I’m going in.

Roads Less Traveled

A couple of nights ago, I dropped Lilly off at her friend’s house and decided to take some back roads to get home. The settling sun was providing some epic light, it wasn’t too cold, and I had some time to kill. It was a luscious pre-dusk-January-Saturday feeling.

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Geese and other birds seem to move around this time of year in this part of Illinois (perhaps they’re confused by our weather? I know I am), so when I saw the kite in the photo above from a distance as I drove along, I wanted to get a closer look at the “birds” that were moving in such excellent concert with each other. I navigated the patchwork of rural roads to get closer to them so I could get some decent snaps. In so doing, I flashed back to my days of running the farmers’ market here – I’d go out to visit farmers on their land, trying to make sense of county roads and state roads and wondering if the GPS was KIDDING ME by bringing me to some isolated dirt road a hundred miles from home. Anyway, as I got closer and the “birds” didn’t move forward, it became obvious I was not looking at birds at all, but an enormous (and unattended) kite. I stopped the car in front of the house to get a photo. A very large and very fuzzy collie watched me intently from the driveway; I stayed on my side of the road, while the sun gilded everything generously with the last rays of the day. I admired the house to which the kite belonged, a cute little mid-century modern-ish affair just out of the frame above. And, to my delight, I watched many hundreds of very confused geese flying north in huge Vs high above my head. It was a perfect moment, one of many I’ve spent on back roads in Illinois watching thunderstorms on the horizon, comets in the heavens, and now birds and kites on the breeze.

LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

GenX/Millennials vacationing with their Boomer parents (sorry for the generalizations)

One of my internet favorites, Melody Kramer

NYT: Write your way to happiness

I’m coconut oil-curious

Last week’s episode of MidAmerican Gardener

Medium is one of my favorite places to stumble upon thought-provoking writing

My friend Jessica did this fascinating interview with Bjork, and…

It’s Not Just Bjork: Women Are Tired of Not Getting Credit for Their Own Music

The Heritage Radio Network has some AWESOME podcasts, including Grace Bonney‘s “After the Jump”

The Goat Must Be Fed (digital journalism)

This piece on the cause of addiction is powerful (as are some of the comments)

So many blog entries this month. I’d say I don’t recognize myself, what with all this blogging, but… it’d be a lie.

Shorn Off, Pt. 2

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But first, a central Illinois sunset.

Much has happened since I was in Sidney, IL at 7 Sisters Farm, but recent footage review brought it all back. Most alarming: Spring has been so slow in arriving – we shot over a month ago and the landscape is only now starting to noticeably change. I wonder when the trees will fully leaf out; we’re a couple weeks away, still, from flowering trees.

Anyway. While my philosophy with BYI has always been to participate as much as possible in whatever’s going on, I was feeling a little weird about attempting to shear a sheep.

[When my son was little, I used to shave his head using electric clippers, and the shearing tool we were going to be using was basically a (much) larger version of those, but the clippers were heavy, and sheep’s wool, I discovered when I met “my” sheep, Dawn, is super-thick and springy. Shaving a head is pretty basic – it’s nice and round. Sheep’s bodies are not one shape – they’re many shapes. There are bony parts sticking out as well as super-smooth round parts. There are folds of skin and there are places where you have to be really careful. Also? Dawn was pregnant. I worried about her lamb in there.]

When Dick, one of the instructors, presented Dawn, waiting gamely on her stand, to me and my shearing partner Roxanne, I almost – ALMOST – asked Roxanne to do the job herself. Roxanne (you’ll meet her in the video) is young, interested in farming and livestock, and seemed quite fearless. She would have been great on her own. However, I a) did not want to disappoint Dick and the other instructor, Harold, by crapping out and b) did not want to disappoint myself by passing up a chance to learn something awesome from these amazing gentlemen. So when Dick told me it was my turn after Roxanne had hers, I grasped the (huge) clippers and gingerly had a go at Dawn’s wool along her flank. I won’t give anything else away, but the story ends with Dawn being safely shorn and Roxanne and I both feeling exhilarated, almost, that we had shorn (most of) a sheep and had not injured it or ourselves, plus… we had contributed, in some small way, to the gathering of the wool for the season.

Dawn

Work has begun on putting this episode (BYI2) together for a release date in early May. We just pre-interviewed the subject of BYI3 and will shoot this week for a release date TBD, and BYIr83 will air this week. Here’s a clue as to its subject matter:

Worms

More soon!

Forward, March

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We like to fly kites.

Along with almost everyone else in North America, I’m a little anxious about spring. I think when it comes, it’s going to come fast. I’m hoping for (almost literally) zero-to-sixty.

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This chicken looks like how I feel about heading into March. Determined.

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Truth!

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I can practically smell it.

Because spring is on the way, I’m working on throwing away/donating SO MUCH. So much. Like, almost everything. I’m an archiver – I like to save things because I like to think they’ll be important in some way someday. These tchotchkes will lend context! If this clutter could speak! OK. Sure. But for the love of all that is holy… SO MUCH OF THIS STUFF DOES NOT BELONG HERE ANYMORE. They are the things of a family that has moved along and changed incredibly.  So many old homeschooling materials that no one has looked at or used in 8 years. So many broken things littering our basement. So many unbroken things in our basement too, things we can’t use any longer, things to be jettisoned. My tiny little “dressing room” (which I share with Jim and also doubles as a closet) bursts with clothes I don’t wear and never will wear (and clothes that he doesn’t wear and never will wear). My even-tinier office (we call it “The Cloffice” because it’s really a closet) is completely unusable right now due to formidable piles of books and magazines, mostly BYI-related in some way.

Ugh.

The word simplify seems to be dogging me. Simplification is not my strong suit, but complication? CALL ME. I’ve finally reached my breaking point, though. This spring, for whatever reason, I’m starting to deal with the guilt and stress I associate with all this physical crap. You know, the guilt of having it and not being grateful for it. The paralysis that accompanies not knowing what to do with it all. The extra guilt of throwing things away. The extra EXTRA guilt that goes with getting rid of anything your kid(s) ever drew, wore, used as an art supply, or – let’s be honest – touched. I’m figuring out that we don’t have to move house in order to make this kind of room. I’m dealing with it now. I think it’s the yoga, honestly.

[More about the yoga another time]

So, yeah. That’s starting to happen this weekend, as we await the weather that’s supposedly coming.

[I’m skeptical.]

Speaking of weather, we’ll be shooting BYI2 late next week, weather permitting. We’ll be shooting BYI3 a few weeks after that. We are on what normal people doing this kind of work would call… a Schedule.

See ya on the other side of this next Polar Vortex.

Two Days Are Not Enough

I believe a 4-day work/school week would work to our advantage; two days is never enough time for this household to get its act together.

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I want to be where these gull prints are. The photo was taken last March in Florida, and while we had winter here last winter, it was nothing like this winter has been. Ergo, we’re planning another trip. I’m already making shopping lists in my head and thinking about the fruit stands I’m going to visit and wondering if there are any new restaurants. We have been going to the same place since 2002 and have only missed one year, 2005, since then. We bought our house at the same time the trip was supposed to happen that year. It was worth it. 909 has been, and continues to be, good to us.

I was thinking that today might be the day I inventory my seed-starting stuff – the lights, the trays, etc. It’s been too cold in the basement to start seeds, though. I wish I was kidding. We’ve had so many days/nights in the single digits here that the basement is just cold all the time. Forget starting seeds – I barely want to go down there to switch the laundry. I haven’t ordered any seeds yet, partially because it’s so freaking cold down there and also because our food co-op does such a great job of bringing seeds in early, thus enabling my laziness and lack of adventure. But it also really saves time and it’s nice to support continued good behavior on the part of one of my favorite local businesses. Thanks, CGFC! I’m sure I’ll be in soon… and then ordering seeds for stuff I plant later in the season.

Oh! The first radio BYI of the year aired locally late last week and is now available on the internet right here. “Ramen Shaman” should be ready by the end of the month, and then we head right into shooting the next one, plus continued radio pieces… it’s a busy time, yet it still feels so hibernatey. There’s a warming trend in the forecast for early next week… I hope it thaws some creativity and motivation around here in addition to the snow mountains.

Every Little Thing We Do

Confession: For an embarrassing number of years, I had it in my head – I have no idea why, I totally should have known better – that all bands recorded their music live to tape in the studio. In my brain, there were no overdubs. Vocalists tracked right alongside the band. No one played a solo over and over (and over and over). It was all fun! And games! And… fun! Like a live show right there in the recording studio! Like this video:

I wound up spending some time in recording situations and studios and immediately realized I was in serious error. Recording, duh Lisa, is the middle process (idea generation & writing & arranging come first and mixing/mastering come later); raw material is getting committed to whatever format (I was going to say “tape”) and it’s coming in pieces and a lot of it ends up not getting used and sometimes there are meltdowns, since not everyone involved has the same creative vision, and it can get really boring. Like anything can, you know?

Post_interview_1252104Me “taking direction” from Tim Meyers, our DP. Photo by Jack Brighton

When I started writing little bits for radio, I learned very quickly how the best pieces are a compelling balance between natural sound, sound bites, and narrative – and how 5 minutes can get eaten up in a hurry. They also took much longer to put together than I had envisioned, and I was working without much of a plan. As a result, I kind of sucked at putting the damn things together back in 2010. They sounded OK, but I had no idea what I was doing. I’m better at it now, but part of the reason I started this blog was so I could write thousands of words if I damn well pleased. I will say I now have a much better understanding now of how the process works, and how templating and having a general idea of what you’re doing is not creatively stifling, but just the opposite. Without going into a lot of detail, it’s never been easy for me to be visionary with my own work, to fight for what I want, and to not get discouraged. I’m FINALLY learning how to be critiqued without feeling afraid or attacked – an absolute necessity – while also standing up for things that I think are essential to a piece.

My latest challenge is twofold: Working with more partners and working in video. Tim Meyers (above) and I work together every day for our regular jobs, and collaborated on Course Work: Dinner Season at Prairie Fruits Farm last year. We also made a video short last summer that served as the proof-of-concept for the stuff we’re doing now with BYI. Here it is. Hope you’re thirsty:

Tim and I are working together on the BYI videos – the photo above is from a shoot we did yesterday afternoon at the Ramen Shaman’s house – along with a project manager (Jack Brighton) and, occasionally, a still photographer (Travis Stansel). They’re all awesome guys who are pumped to be working on a project like this. It was our first time working as a group, and on location to boot. I had prepped for much of the morning and talked to Tim a couple of hours before we got started, but we still made adjustments once we got to the location. It helped SO MUCH to have a plan. I thought the interview went well, everyone did their thing, there were beautiful snacks (thanks, Mark), we were done by 5. However, we shot an hour + of video, and way (way!) more will be shot on Tuesday… and all of it will need to be edited down to something awesome for PBS Digital Studios that is absolutely no more than 10 minutes long and preferably under 8 minutes. Getting to the finished product of any kind – an elaborate dish, a short story or novel, a song, an album, a 5-minute radio piece or an 8-minute video short or whatever – is always CRAZYPANTS. Why I’m continually surprised by the time and effort it all requires baffles me… but is not a deterrent. On the contrary.

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In other news, we found out yesterday that Child the Elder got a promotion at his job, which is awesome. Also: it’s going to be negative 12 degrees here tonight (it’s currently 36 degrees and the temperature is rising); like everyone else around here, I have Serious Winter Fatigue and will never take 40 degrees two days in a row for granted ever again. Finally: I’m making Red Stew from one of the Canal House cookbooks for dinner. I think it’s me shaking a fist at January. You can throw whatever you want at us this week, January 2014, but we’re having Red Stew. So there.